Memorial remembers Valley doctor who died from COVID-19 complications

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- United Health Centers of the San Joaquin Valley is honoring one of its own who died while on the front lines of the pandemic.

A new memorial was unveiled Monday in honor of Dr. Robert Shankerman. He worked as the Chief Medical Officer at UHC from 2014 until his death in 2020.

The memorial will serve as a permanent way to pay tribute to his dedication to underserved communities in the Central Valley.

"He made their lives better and that's what his whole life was dedicated to," says United Health Centers CEO Justin Preas.

Preas says beyond being an administrator, Dr. Shankerman still saw patients at the UHC facility in Parlier.

He was a specialist in HIV, Hepatitis C and was a vocal advocate at the start of the pandemic -- sharing preventative safety measures.

Despite his work to prevent the spread of the virus, Shankerman tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized for a month before he died in September of 2020.

At that time, vaccines were not available.

Now, to make sure he's never forgotten, his picture is one of the first things you see when you visit the UHC Corporate Headquarters in northwest Fresno.

"He was just a wonderful man, a wonderful person and I hope every time that they look at that, it just helps make their day a little bit better," Preas said,

The company is now hoping Dr. Shankerman's passion to help others will inspire the next generation.

The organization is working on a scholarship that will support pre-med Fresno State students.

"We have been gathering donations to start a scholarship program in his name so that his name, mission and vision will carry on," Preas said.

So far, they've raised about $75,000 for that scholarship fund.

They're still working to figure out the specifics, but they're hoping to give out the first scholarship during the fall semester.
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